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2012: Wolverine!

“Once thought to be an easy win for native son Mitt Romney, the Michigan primary has instead turned into one of the stiffest tests for the Republican presidential front-runner — and an unexpected opportunity for the surging campaign of Rick Santorum,” the Washington Post says.

Politico: Two weeks before the increasingly pivotal showdown in Romney’s native state, his leading Michigan supporters are exuding confidence that he’ll not only win, but win easily and halt Santorum’s momentum in the process. Romney’s national campaign isn’t leaving that to chance: It has deployed top operatives to the state and on Tuesday reserved nearly $1.3 million in airtime in the runup to the Feb. 28 primary, according to a media-buying source. The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future is also putting big bucks behind a new negative ad on Santorum that starts Wednesday.”

The latest from a New York Times/CBS poll: “Their combative contest remains in flux, with former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania now in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney after Mr. Santorum’s victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Mr. Santorum’s sharp rise in the polls underscores some of Mr. Romney’s perceived weaknesses, with voters saying that Mr. Santorum shares their values and that they connect to his blue-collar economic message.” 

A CNN poll finds “Mitt Romney's overall favorable ratings have dropped, while Rick Santorum's standing has jumped among Republicans.” Among all Americans: Romney has hit a net-low of 34%/54%; Santorum is 32%/38%; Gingrich is at a low of 25%/63; Paul, the only GOP contender who is a net-positive, is at a high of 42%/36%. Among Republicans, Romney has dropped 13 points in a month. He stands at 54%/40%, down from 67%/25%; Santorum, on the other hand, is now viewed more favorably than any GOP candidate at 56%/23%, up from 49%/21% last month; Gingrich is a net-negative for the first time -- 46%/47% -- his worst score of the campaign; Paul is 51%/34%.

President Obama, by contrast, is 53%/45% among all voters. (Here’s the full poll.)

GINGRICH: A new web video from Gingrich asserts that this year voters will decide whether “to decisively repudiate an 80 year drift to the left: a drift in our newsrooms; a drift in our colleges and universities; a drift with our judges; and a drift among elected politicians.” To that, the Boston Globe writes: “Conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts must be shocked to hear that.” And: “[T]he problem, for a historian like Gingrich, is history. Gingrich’s statement, said Jeffrey Berry, professor of American politics at Tufts University, is ‘sloppy thinking.’”

“Gingrich has uttered the term ‘Lean Six Sigma’ at least 28 times since August in campaign appearances, debates and media interviews, a review of transcripts and news accounts shows,” Bloomberg writes. “At the same time, Mike George, the investor who has written six books on Lean Six Sigma, paid for mailings, handouts and automated phone calls backing Gingrich in the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary last month. George’s financial support comes through a political action committee, Strong America Now, which he created and solely funds. The dynamic illustrates a new way for wealthy individuals to leverage the high visibility of a presidential election as a public-relations tool for a specific company, product or message.”

For your Valentine’s Day, um, pleasure? The New York Daily News’ headline: “Newt Gingrich reveals sexy Valentine’s Day plans for wife Callista while stumping in California.” He said: "All I can promise is that I believe she will be quite happy. I think for the first time in a while we'll have a private dinner and just hopefully exchange gifts and, you know reconnect a little bit.” Gingrich then raised his arms in the air to wave off further questions, quickly adding, "No more details!"

ROMNEY: “Struggling to maintain his frontrunner status, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is using his fundraising prowess to try to boost his image. A super PAC supporting Romney is going on the air with ads in eight states,” the Boston Globe writes. “The Restore our Future super PAC is spending $1.5 million in advertising in states that will hold primaries in February and March. The new wave of spending could serve to combat the growing popularity of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who is now running head to head with Romney in national polls, propelled by support from conservative and Tea Party voters.”

“For Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Michigan may be their political Gettysburg. If Romney loses in his native state, where his father was governor, it would be a defeat from which he might not recover,” Bloomberg writes. “The makeup of the Republican electorate, which is likely to be one-third Catholic and opposed to abortion, will help Santorum offset the allegiance Romney draws from supporters who delivered his 2008 presidential primary win over John McCain.”

A Romney adviser tipped the campaign’s hand to Ben Smith that they’re now going to go negative on Santorum on two fronts: (1) Comparing him to Barack Obama in that he has no experience running anything, and (2) To again challenge his Washington experience. And they think that will trigger a response in which Santorum will quote “whine like crazy.”

"The man who oversaw the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler said Tuesday that if Mitt Romney believes the companies would have survived without government financing in 2008 and 2009, he doesn't understand how bad the financial crash -- and the tightening of credit markets -- was at the time," writes the Detroit Free Press. "Steven Rattner, a Democratic supporter who ran a private investment firm before coming to Washington to help rescue GM and Chrysler, told the Free Press in an interview Tuesday that Romney's position on the so-called bailout is "ridiculous ... a complete denial of the facts."

Team Obama got the headline it wanted in the Detroit News with this write up of the Democratic response to Romney's op-ed in the paper yesterday: "Romney's auto bailout stand slammed."

“A Smart Politics review of the 19 Republican presidential debates finds that Mitt Romney has made more references about the need to address the problems of the middle class (41) than the remainder of the GOP field combined (31),” the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog writes. That’s four times as many as the next candidate. Still, Romney’s tax plan cuts taxes more – even proportionately – for the rich than the middle class. The wealthiest would get a $146,000 cut, while those making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year would get $249, according to the Tax Policy Center.

SANTORUM: He has a response ad out against Romney, showing a fake Romney running from pillar to pillar (like in paintball) firing a gun loaded with mud, trying to hit a Santorum cut out. At the end, it backfires and gets on Romney’s white shirt.

Christian Heinze: “Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has made a lot of gains since his sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri last week, but he does have a vulnerability that’s just starting to emerge — his lack of appeal to women.”

How Santorum played in Boise, from the Idaho Press-Tribune: "He began his speech with an appeal to Idaho voters, and discussed his family values. After the audience applauded Santorum for his seven children, he joked that reaction to that in New York City was more of a gasp than applause."

The scrutiny cometh… “Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum told CNN last week he would release his tax returns "in the next couple days," but five days later he hasn't released them,” USA Today writes.